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Naming Dying

deathWe are deathly afraid of dying.

Many years ago when we moved off of our farms and were no longer conscripted to go to war, we stopped seeing things die. With the advent of penicillin and surgeries and chemotherapy and x-rays we became good at not dying…for a little while. As our babies stopped dying as often and our older people lived longer and longer, we stopped thinking of dying.

That is not to say that we stopped dying. All of us die. We just decided not to think about dying.

This was easier for a little while. With sickness and dying segregated away in hospitals and nursing homes, we could ignore them. This worked well enough for a while, but with the advent of the internet and the 24 hour news cycle, dying has been brough back into our faces. When a young man walks into a school and shoots children, we see it. When hundreds of West Africans die of ebola, we see it.

Many of us try to ignore it with much success. You can ignore death for decades of your life. But one day, one very uncomfortable day, death will find you. You will look into the eyes of a doctor who will tell you that you are going to die. Even when you run from it, death will find you.

Even though this reality if frightening, it is not one God has left us alone with. The Bible has a great deal to say about death.

Death is Bad

This may seem obvious, but I have heard Christians argue that death is good. This concept is foreign to scripture.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Gen 2:16-17

Death is a curse, a consequence of rebelling against God. When we weep over the death of a child or the loss of a parent, we are right to do so. We were created not to die, but we do. This is tragic.

Additionally, throughout scripture, death is considered a punishment for sin and foolishness. The greatest crimes in all societies are punished with death. We deeply connect guilt with death because God made us that way.

Humans Live Beyond Death

The author of Hebrews says it this way.

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, Hebrews 9:27

Even when we die, our souls live on to be judged by the God who said we would die.

God Died to Take our Judgment

It is not just that we die because of our sins, God chose to die because of our sins too. When he said, “You will certainly die” it applied to him as well.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:6-9

Far from being a cruel God who judges with no mercy, our God has chosen to suffer for us and to suffer with us.

So What?

As Christians, we need to not put our heads in the sand, pretending that our death is not coming. Quite the opposite, we need to be acutely aware of our deaths.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thes 4:13-14

We are called be live as those who have hope. When we secretly deny death we are clinging to this life as if it were the only life we had. The myth we believe is that we can keep this life for even a little while. Sooner or later, maybe even tonight, we may die.

But think of the freedom of not fearing death. Imagine for a moment how free to go out into a dark world and do good. If there really is an eternal and wonderful future with Jesus before us, how free we are today to give ourselves to a dying and dark world.

Christian, think often of your death. Don’t run from it. It will probably be painful and frightening, but imagine suffering through it to walk out the other side and look into the eyes of Jesus. The pain you feel in death is the last pain you will ever feel. Let’s not live as those who have no hope. Let’s embrace the hope we have and harness it to take risks in the world we live in today.

Might as well, we’re going to die anyway.

-Chip

 

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